Why you should care
It’s a bottle opener, screwdriver, SIM card tool, glass breaker — all in one.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen or heard the word “wearable” over the last 12 months, I’d have a lot of nickels. Maybe even enough of them to preorder the Leatherman Tread, a $150 multi-tool that masquerades as ruggedly handsome chain-link bracelet you wear on your wrist.
Think of the Tread as a mini tool belt in a heavy-duty watch strap, with tools fitting into 11 interchangeable links. Most of the 25 available tools, well, turn things. There’s a variety of screwdriver tips and box wrenches, but you also get some workhorses, such as three sizes of flathead screwdriver, assorted tools like the pick/SIM card tool and a bottle opener, plus a few oddballs. There’s also a “cutting hook” suitable for opening those annoying plastic packages that envelop nearly every product Costco sells. Want to add or remove a link? No problem. Although, ironically, the flathead screwdriver required is not included.
The watch band follows all TSA guidelines, so you can take it on the plane.
Ben Rivera, president of the Oregon-based tool company Leatherman, created the Tread after his trusty multi-tool was confiscated while on a trip to Disneyland with his kids. That’s no surprise given that the company’s line of tools — Swiss Army knives on steroids, which see an almost cultlike devotion amongst their owners — typically contain a large blade in addition to its trademark folding pliers. The Tread, on the other hand, was designed to pose no such threat at airports or places that take a dim view of potential weapons. Julie Knapp, a Leatherman marketing assistant, says that the watch band follows all TSA guidelines and that Leatherman employees (Leathermen?) have worn it “internationally through multiple ways of travel.”
Though it was designed for “anyone,” it may not appeal to everyone. Because really, how often are you going to use that oxygen tank wrench or carbide glass breaker? Even some Leatherman fans are skeptical about the Tread’s practicality. Stuart Baulch, a professional stagehand and the technical director for Canada’s National Ballet School, who has been using Leatherman tools for more than 20 years, says it “looks like an ergonomic nightmare” beyond small fixes.
Still, Baulch loves “the hard-tech, almost cyberpunk look” of it. And this aesthetic — a sleek, slightly badass bracelet, available in stainless steel or black “diamondlike coating” — might even appeal to men who tend not to accessorize with tools. (Not to mention cyclists, who are often in need of an urgent, small repair.) And while this handy watch strap doesn’t come with a watch, you can add one — but the Tread is only compatible with the company’s own timepiece. You can buy both together — known as the Tread QM1 — for $500 (a few thousand more nickels) in the fall.